1. says

    It’s a very old joke, PZ, but as you are sadly lacking in hibernicity you might not have heard it. Back in the bad days, a fellow was walking late one night in a dangerous bit of Belfast. Suddenly he’s surrounded by armed maniacs. “Are you protestant or catholic?”, they demand.

    “Eh, I’m an atheist actually,” he answers.

    “Well sure,” they counter, “but are you a protestant atheist or a catholic atheist?”

  2. Colugo says

    Philip Pullman, interview with Peter Chattaway:

    “Does atheism benefit from the Christian heritage? Of course it can benefit from the best of it. I would hate to live in a world where all the Christian art, philosophy, literature, music, and architecture, not to mention the best of the ethical teaching, had been obliterated and forgotten. My own background, as I’ve said many times, is Christian to the core. Christianity has made me what I am, for better or worse. I just don’t believe in God.”

  3. says

    If you want to get technical, it’s a Protestant reinterpretation of Gnosticism written by an Atheist from an Anglican background in the vein of John Milton’s Paradise Lost to demonstrate the Postmodernist point that the Christian mythology is coes not constitute a single metanarrative, but that it provides the raw material for many metanarratives, some of which are healthier from a Humanist perspective.

  4. says

    I just said something similar this over on my site today, Lyra’s father is pretty much Martin Luther, and he’s challenging the church, but not saying there is no god, just that their theology is wrong.

    BTW, except for changing the church to the Magestarium, the movie seemed much much more anti-church than the book.

  5. says

    With all the supposedly unique, (sic) absolute, and varied interpretations of the Bible, it should be no surprise that different sectarians individuals might interpret a movie in “varied” ways as well ;-)

  6. caynazzo says

    Rather than critique sui generis theocratic power structures, the movie makes use of stereotypes perceived among those on the receiving end of any censorious bureaucracy.

    Based on what the movie gives us, would it be hard for the IDists to cast the scientific community as the magisterium?

    Lower class outlaws revolting against the powers that be, unshackled and armed with the truth, they must still be lead by one from the ruling class. We’ve seen this before.

  7. says

    Ah, but is it a non-overlapping magisterium?

    I can relate 100% with what Pullman says about his Christian background. He’s spot on.

  8. Jeff D says

    Pullman has always been more critical of organized, authoritarian religion and of inflexible dogma than of “spiritual” notions per se.

    I saw the movie on Saturday the 8th and was relieved that it didn’t suck at all. Yes, truncations and condensations and compromises were made along the way, and what I hope is just the first movie ends at least 2 chapters before the end of the first book, but I was pleasantly surprised how much of the anti-church content was still in the finished film.

    The theater was only about 1/4 full for a 2 PM showing on a Saturday afternoon, but half the audience consisted of youngish parents with their kids (ages 6 to 12 in tow). I guess they didn’t get, or didn’t obey, the warning messages and e-mails from their Christian friends and their church groups.

  9. flashbaby says

    I guess this lets us evil atheists off the hook for Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot as they were culturally Russian orthodox, protestant and buddhist. Phew thank the non existent gods for that.

  10. windy says

    …Lyra’s father is pretty much Martin Luther … not saying there is no god, just that their theology is wrong.

    I see your point wrt the latter part, but remember that Martin Luther was the “reason is a whore” guy… rather different from Lord Asriel the unscrupulous scientist.

  11. John B says

    You think everyone must have met the different kinds of atheists.

    People who have rejected religion are different from those who never had it. You don’t reverse years of socialization by declaring your rejection of God.

    Obviously, an apostate’s rejection of religion is based on her religion’s critical issues: You don’t belong because you lack a personal relationship with Jesus and disbelieve the scriptures? Those are Protestant concerns.

  12. Selina Morse says

    I have a real problem with those churches that are objecting to this film. For a start they are about six years late (the books have been in print about that long and have always been aimed at children).

    Not only that, but if a faith is so shakey that it feels threatened by a film, then it is on very dodgy ground indeed.

    Churches should be advocating people to see the film (or read the books) and then to make their own minds up.

  13. David Marjanović, OM says

    as they were culturally Russian orthodox, protestant and buddhist.

    Catholic, not Protestant.

  14. David Marjanović, OM says

    as they were culturally Russian orthodox, protestant and buddhist.

    Catholic, not Protestant.

  15. barkdog says

    Hey flashbaby, a bunch of people probably already caught this: old Adolf was a Catholic, born and raised at a time when protestants were only grudgingly conceded civil liberites in kakania.

  16. Chris says

    Interesting review, but I found this comment a little puzzling:

    If anything, Lyra’s position as a savior figure, foretold in the witches’ prophecies, implies the existence of an alternative religious structure–not the opposition of religion to no religion at all.

    Huh? Lyra’s human. Admiring her, following her, even revering her isn’t a religion. She isn’t a prophet predicting that some supernatural being will come later and change things; she’s a human being *actually changing things*.

    That couldn’t be further from religion.

    Protestants may wind up disappointed when they realize that the Republic of Heaven has no place for a Lord…

  17. Colugo says

    His Dark Materials is a Protestant work just like Kevin Smith’s Dogma is Catholic, Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is Muslim, and the original Battlestar Galactica is Mormon. Whether these works are critiques, satires, or allegories, they are all deeply thematically, mythologically, and symbolically informed by the faith traditions of their creators.

  18. falshbaby says

    My mistake re Hitler and Stalin, I picked the wrong specific god bothering organisations (they all merge into one sea of irrationality after all). The principle remains sound though.

  19. tyro says

    Spoiler for the other books in the series.

    I can kind of see how that works, until you get to the third book and you find out that the Authority (God) is actually just a senile old guy and Metatron has taken over as “God.” I don’t think that follows as Protestant doctrine, does it? Sounds more like Nietzsche.

    I read those books when I was twelve years old, and they scared the crap out of me then because I was still a Good Little Christian Girl. I love them now, though.

  20. says

    I was going to go last night, but I got invited to go hang out with some folks I know… who ended up being surrounded by shouty drunks. I should have gone to the movies instead.

    Colugo, I’m reminded of a quote from Camille Paglia:

    Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.

    The first half is clearly true, but I seriously doubt the second. You don’t need a religious society to support a good Rage Against The Heavens plot–just look at “God of War” and its sequels.

  21. Nadeen says

    Pullman seems to have figured out the Anglican influence some time before the author of that comment.

    PP: My answer to that would be that I was brought up in the Church of England, and whereas I’m an atheist, I’m certainly a Church of England atheist, and for the matter of that a 1662 Book of Common Prayer atheist. The Church of England is so deeply embedded in my personality and my way of thinking that to remove it would take a surgical operation so radical that I would probably not survive it.

    From an interview found here:

  22. Theron says

    And I’m a Southern Baptist atheist. It took some time for me to realize that other religions were not simply Southern Baptism with different names. Although I grew up in a non-religious household, the community around me was so heavily Southern Baptist that for me, Southern Baptism was the very definition of religion. In time, I did realize that theirs was but one kind of religion, and that – gasp! – there were even religions that didn’t have gods. But I will always be a Southern Baptist atheist. The religion you specifically reject (if you come from a situation that requires you to do that) will always linger – just like your first kiss.

  23. Graeme Elliott says

    I went to see this film, after I had read the books. I think this film is being over analyzed, probably by those who were terrified at what it could contain. The whole issue of Authority and Free Will is explored later in the series, with the first book largely being about setting up what is to come, and introducing one of the main characters. I liked it, and I want to see how true to the later books the directors are prepared to be when confronting the bible belt’s spending power….

    I wrote this, and would appreciate any comments anyone might have…